I try really hard to nail my exposure in camera and not spend too much time playing around with it in post production. Occasionally though, I’ll expose for the shadows in the face and blow out other important elements. In this case, if I exposed for her hat, I compromised the color in her face when I pulled the exposure slider.
As you can tell, her hat is blown in quite a few places SOOC.
I went ahead with my edits (exposure and midtone bumps, some desaturating, pushed shadows, WB, etc.), and now you can see where my major blow outs are. There a lot of different ways to go about correcting these areas, but here is what I do.
In the lower portion of your LR develop tab, right click on the thumbnail of your image and select “create virtual copy”.
Now at the bottom of your screen, you’ll have two of the exact same image. (Hence why it’s a copy!) The one on the left is your original, and will show all of your LR edits, the one on the right is a copy and has no history. **Important: Be sure to complete all of your LR edits before you make your copy. You want the two images to be identical with the exception of exposure**
The goal of your copy is to focus on the blown spots. I drastically reduced exposure and brightness and increased the recovery slider.
Keep an eye on your spots – you want to bring back as much detail as you can, but if you pull it too far, you’ll get a greyish tint.
This is as far as I could recover. The camera didn’t record detail in the spots that are still red. As you can see, it’s DARK. But, the hat is exactly where I want it. I don’t care as much about her or anything around her.
Now you’re done with your copy. Yay! At the bottom of your LR screen you have your fully edited and blown image. Right next to it, you have you (much darker now) copy. Control+click on both of them and then right click>edit in>open as layers in Photoshop.
It will think for a minute and then your image will open in Photoshop (I use CS4) with the *original* image on top and the recovered/darker image as the bottom layer.
Keeping the original image selected, click on the layer mask option in the Layers palette to create a mask. Now, using your brush tool (with black selected) to slowly paint the recovered areas onto the original image. I start off with a small brush at about 20% opacity.
Keep in mind that you only need to paint in the areas that are blown. The rest of your image should be well exposed at this point.
As you are painting on the darker layer, be careful not to go too far. In this case, the hat starts to look dirty. You can always correct a heavy hand by painting back over the “dirty” spots with the white brush.
When you’re happy with how it looks, just save the image and close it up. Lightroom will bring it right back into your filmstrip.
Voila! Three images. The first is your original. (The one with all your edit history) The second is the virtual copy created for your exposure compensation. And the third is your newly edited perfect version!
Just remember there is no edit history for your newly created image. If you need to tweak the edits at this point, you either need to start over or compensate from this new starting point, which I do not recommend.
For this specific image, I pulled the recovery slider to 5 and re-cropped before pulling it into Photoshop for a few last little tweaks.
Here is my final image – It’s still not 100% correctly exposed (You can see a bit of blow out on her fingers holding her hat), but I’m happy with it and would be perfectly comfortable putting this in her gallery.